Police refuse to prosecute over Smallford Pits destruction

The state of the ponds at Smallford Pits after the pollution.

The state of the ponds at Smallford Pits after the pollution. - Credit: Steve Brooks

No police action will be taken in response to the destruction of a vital wildlife environment.

Pollution and constructive work have devastated Smallford Pits, leaving it as little more than a muddy wasteland. It had been a breeding ground for great crested newts and was also an important area for dragonflies.

The area was previously a Local Wildlife Site, which identified it as a crucial location for wildlife in the county and should have protected it from development by the planning system.

In September the ponds on the site were dredged and scrub cut to the ground, and in December fuel was dumped in the water. A JCB later levelled the plant life, including felling trees, which neighbours believe has caused further damage to the environment.

Although the Environment Agency considered the damage to constitute a crime, wildlife crime officer Sgt Ryan Hemmings decided not to pursue the matter: "After reviewing all of the available evidence, which included all of the original witness statements, surveys, images provided, including formally interviewing land owners that have a responsibility for the location, and following up with the construction companies identified as providing work, I have reached the conclusion that the case against the landowners is evidentially weak.

"Although I have thoroughly considered the substantial public interest into this matter, this alone is not enough to support a prosecution."

He said the case is evidentially weak due to a number of reasons: no actual eye-witness seeing the commission of the offence; the commission of the offence not being evidentially captured; lack of identification of any suspect, or that of one causing damage; no admission of guilt from formally interviewing suspects; lack of awareness or knowledge from suspects regarding the May 2020 survey on great crested newts.

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A spokesperson from Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust said: "We are very disappointed to hear that the destruction of the Local Wildlife Site at Smallford Pits will not be prosecuted. This serves as another illustration that Local Wildlife Sites have almost no legal protection.

"The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world we must better protect and care for the wild places we have left. The Wildlife Trusts want to see much stronger protection for Local Wildlife Sites so that the devastation seen at Smallford Pits is not repeated."